Helsinki Service Design Jam – Case study: Ice to the eskimos

Jamming is about forming teams, developing ideas, prototyping and sharing them with the world. (1) It’s also about “improvising e.g. dancing around the idea”, as our guest lecturer Jani Turku, put it on Saturday morning. And at the end, a new piece of art is born, co-created by all the team members. As a part time musician, I’m familiar with a word ‘jamming’ in terms of music. Helsinki Jam was my first service design jam and based on this experience, jamming services is not so different from playing music.

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Left: Jamming is also about rubber chickens and (right) eating, but more about this later

In music, jam sessions may be based on a theme or a chord, or they may be fully improvisational. Likewise, our service design jam had a secret theme, which was revealed on Friday evening. A lot happens between revealing a theme on Friday and pitching a project on Sunday. Teams form a problem, they go out on a research trip to find out if the problem is worth solving, they question their project, they built a prototype, and finally they pitch their end results to an audience. In this particular jam session, our team created a prototype ‘Ice to the Eskimos – How to become a sales person of your dreams’. An app for retail, to help with the process of inducting new staff members to organization. The app gamifies information flow and it can be used both for educational and social purposes. So, how did we end up here?

Doing not talking

Friday night opened with welcome words by two speakers: Håkan Mitts and Minna-Kaarina Forssén from Aalto University. Followed by the presentation of futures thinking by futures specialists Anu K. Nousiainen and Minna Koskelo from Helsinki Futures Thinking network and was closed with practical issues presented by Mikko Heiskala and Jaakko Porokuokka. The secret theme was introduced (you can watch it from the link below)

Based on the rebus, we were asked to write down eight problems, which were then to be developed further in teams. Our team: Annina Antinranta(myself), Emma Dahl, Mira Kirvesmäki and Xiang Ye (and Katja Stolt who was present on Friday) discussed first about subjects such as safety issues, finding information, written versus visual information etc. Finally we narrowed down our problem to safety instructions. Our initial question was:‘ Do people know what to do in a case of an emergency?’

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In Jams, multidisciplinary teams work under a statement: Doing, not talking. Instead of talking about something to come, one should show a prototype and test it. According to Håkan Mitts,  when teams go out and start doing research, their problem usually transforms to something else. This happened to our team as well.

Saturday morning was kicked-off by two great speakers: Jani Turku from IMPROVment and Anton Schubert, Futurice’s Head of Design. After their presentations, our team headed out to Sello shopping mall, to find out about how security issues are handled in their premises, but after interviewing people and staff members,  it turned out, that the security was pretty well handled, instead the new staff members didn’t have all the information they needed. So after coming back to the campus, we changed our focus and started to think about a solution for how to engage new staff members.

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Top row left: Xiang and Emma doing a staff interview at Sello
Top row right: Related trends
Below: Annina, Xiang, Emma & Mira thinking about the problem. (photo by Antti Kytö)

Squawk, said the rubber chicken

Service Design Jams are based on a non-profit volunteer activity. The goal is build up a service prototype in only 48 hours. This schedule might sound quite impossible to some people, but the process is as important than the end results.

Jams encourage people to release their inner creative energy. Products are designed by using legos, playing out the service path, and each deadline is announced with a squawk of a rubber chicken. While playing, teams discuss and continue to build on their ideas. The idea leads to another idea. The problem becomes a solution. The solution becomes a service. On this journey, our team constructed four personas e.g. stakeholders: The big boss, The shop manager, The HR person and the staff member. We played their customer journey, we picked up the major trends related to tour subject, we created a business model canvas and finally we drew the user experience flow for the final prototype.

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Top row: Meet our stakeholders: The Big Boss of the retail chain, the shop manager, HR and a staff member
Front row: Business Model Canvas and the team at work

Ice to the Eskimos and other (best) selling stories

On Sunday morning we took photos of our user experience flow and constructed a prototype with computer. This is the flow:

  • Receive a pre defined company code
  • Log in with the code
  • Create a profile, upload your pic and type your name
  • App shows your level (beginner)
  • Start a game
  • Watch a short tutorial of the game
  • Play for example an employee game, where the task is to connect the face and the name of your colleagues.
  • Play another game or quit
  • Apps shows the progress by showing a level (if you are on advanced level, you can create tutorials for others to play
  • Menu items are:  list of tutorials, list of groups, company info, contacts, FAQ.

Since we named our app Ice for Eskimos (refers to the phrase, that if you are good sales person, you can sell anything) progress was shown from an egg to a grown up penguin.

Our group opening up the pitch event on Sunday.

Service Design Jam

Finally on Sunday 2 PM teams head to the stage. Due to the schedules, our group was chosen to open up the pitching event. Mira did the talking, myself I was playing the shop manager, Emma was the new staff member and Xiang was our sales superstar. We walked through the process of the application flow. At the end we had imaginary coffee, since our app saves time from basic tasks at work and creates room for more important matters in life.

peli2    logo    faces

In the pitching session, ten groups presented their ideas. The concepts varied from senior citizen services to kid’s business trips. For the list of all projects, click on to the global service jam website:

My favorite of the other groups was an app, called offline. Shortly; it’s about defining a target (for example buying something for the family) and then collecting points with your mobile while you are offline doing something else. Funny, inspiring and innovative. Also nicely presented. Good luck team, I´ll be your first real life customer! I wanna be offline too and get a reward from it.

Jams closed at 5 PM on Sunday. I felt strangely inspired and tired at the same time. For me, it was an eye-opening event, that in 48 hours, it is possible to come up with a project. The co-initiator of Global Jam event: Adam Lawrence says in the Service Design Blog post (1): “A great Jam strikes a balance between having a seriously great time and doing a crazy amount of work.”

I will definitely continue jamming. With services and music. Until the next time!

“The phrase “jam session” came about in the 20’s when white and black musicians would congregate after their regular paying gigs, to play the jazz they couldn’t in the “Paul Whiteman” style bands. Bing Crosby would often attend these sessions, and the musicians would say he was “jammin’ the beat”, since he would clap on the one and the three. Thus these sessions became known as “jam sessions”.(2)


 (1)Service Design Network Blog, accessed: 7.3.2015 at 14:00

(2)Wikipedia Jam Session, accessed 7.3.2015 at 17.10)

Written by Annina Antinranta – art director and musician/producer based in Helsinki, Finland and Laurea SID Student 2013, as part of an assignment for the course “Current Topics in Service Design” 

3 thoughts on “Helsinki Service Design Jam – Case study: Ice to the eskimos

  1. So you did everything only through one time? I have been in EU wide workshops arranged by Brunhild Bushoff in Germany few times and she made us to do the same what you did but three times in same amount of time. we had three 12 hour work days. The results were great. So I think that your jamming sounds little bit lazy =D.

    I feel that pitching part with presentation user tests with prototype are most important because the feedback from outside is essential when designing solutions. One good method in every workshop is the avoid saying “no, but”. It is more fruitful to say “yes, and”. Because when going to that “but” mode people start to defend their positions. Group work is always more compromising than dictatorship. Best way to ruin collaboration is make it to be as a competition.

    But otherwise these workshops, what we back in 10 years did not call them jams, are still great things. Thanks for the post =D

    • wow, three times sounds exhausting, I thought we had a lot of work 🙂 Perhaps the amount of rounds is also a scheduling issue, since these jams start at Friday night, which makes Friday relatively short and Saturday twice as long. Having three equal long days would make room for repeating circles. Definitely agree that the feedback is essential part. I personally love the idea, that companies should be seen as facilitators, while the actual client makes the experience, and therefore client experience and feedback is the one that defines the features in product!

  2. Pingback: Seitsemän uuden aikakauden oppimisympäristöä edistämässä YAMK-koulutuksen TKI-vaikuttavuutta – UAS Journal

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